It's all smiles in the early going for the Chicago Bulls in 2010.
A 2-1 start, the fantastic play of star-in-waiting point guard Derrick Rose, and the comfortable transition to a new head coach have made most Bulls fans happy a week into the season.
Last night, the Bulls defeated a worthy Portland Trail Blazers team 110-98 behind forward Luol Deng's career-high 40 points on 14 of 19 shooting.
In doing so, Deng emerged—at least for the time being—as the team's clear No. 2 scorer behind Derrick Rose.
Deng was quiet up until last night, as he scored just 13 points in the team's season-opening loss on the road in Oklahoma City to the Thunder.
He did even less (nine points) in the team's first victory of the season against the Detroit Pistons.
With Deng, you have to expect some roller-coaster-type stats; he'll go off for 25 or 30 points one night, then regress to a single-digit scoring output the next night.
Monday's 40-point outburst serves as an indicator that Deng can have those special nights and can carry the Bulls on his thin shoulders.
It's no secret as to who will carry the load for the 2010 season—and beyond—for the Chicago Bulls.
Derrick Rose opened up 2010 in grand fashion, posting 28 points and chipping in six assists against a good Thunder team. Never mind the fact that Rose shot just 12 of 35 from the floor, as he's the clear No. 1 option on offense for the Bulls.
Game two brought even more excitement from Rose, who exploded for 39 points and seven assists.
That's the reason many consider Rose to be a dark-horse candidate for NBA MVP.
His scoring dipped last night against Portland (16 points), but he dialed up 13 assists for his pals, proving that his versatility as an offensive player is hard to match.
So, it's three games in the books for the Bulls, but a clear No. 3 scorer hasn't presented himself yet.
Technically, you could make the argument that Joakim Noah (who has finished second on the team in scoring twice already this season) has shown he can be a team's No. 3 scorer.
But there is no argument that Noah's true value to this team is his rebounding and defensive play.
Noah does a lot for the Bulls in terms of picking up the pace and energy of a game—his up-tempo style of play can be contagious for teammates.
While he's averaging 14.3 points per game, the Bulls can't rely on him for double-digit scoring totals every night—he just doesn't have a polished offensive game yet.
Second-year man Taj Gibson, who is filling in for would-be No. 2 scorer Carlos Boozer at power forward, is getting 13 ppg so far, but like Noah, can't be counted on to produce double figures every night.
Gibson is a savvy, veteran-like second-year player who does a lot of little things right, but nothing sticks out about his game.
It would be too much pressure for the Bulls to anoint him or Noah as their default No. 3 scoring options for the rest of November (or whenever Boozer returns).
What is likely to happen is a rotation of players that can fill in the void as the team's third (or fourth) scoring option.
Obviously, Noah and Gibson have demonstrated they can put the ball in the hoop a little, but it will be interesting to see if players like Kyle Korver or C.J. Watson can step up their games a little.
At six and 5.3 points per game, respectively, Korver and Watson have the offensive repertoires to help out Rose and Deng on the scoring front.
Korver has averaged double-digit scoring in three of his seven NBA seasons and is a career 9.8-ppg scorer.
There is no reason his scoring total of six points per game should be so low.
Watson scored 10.3 points per game last season as a backup on Golden State—totals he should be able to mirror as the primary backup to Derrick Rose.
A forgotten man is Ronnie Brewer.
Brewer is getting less than 10 minutes per game as he works his way back into playing shape, but had two seasons in which he averaged double-digit scoring while playing for the Utah Jazz.
If he can find his game that he had in Utah, the Bulls can have their No. 3 scorer.
With Boozer expected to miss the rest of November and maybe parts of December and the Bulls having a challenging schedule filled with the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic (all to be played in the next month), the need for a third scorer is obvious to all Bulls fans.
Until then, we will enjoy watching Derrick Rose live up to the hype that his new-found fame and appearances in commercials have garnered for him and the play of Deng and Noah as important sidekicks.
Carlos Boozer will return soon.
Let's hope he's returning to a team with too many scoring options.
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